Does perceived message effectiveness cause persuasion or vice versa? 17 consistent answers

James Price Dillard, Lijiang Shen, Renata Grillova Vail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

199 Scopus citations


Can perceived message effectiveness (PE) be considered a cause of actual effectiveness (AE)? If so, PE judgments can be used as valid indicators of the persuasiveness of messages in the preimplementation phase of campaigns. In addition, manipulating PE may be a viable persuasive strategy. But, if the reverse causal sequence obtains (AE→PE), then the strategy would be ineffective and the utility of PE in formative campaign research meaningless. Structural equation analysis of 2 cross-sectional data sets (N = 202 and 204) concerned with fear appeals favored the PE→AE hypothesis. Two additional studies (N = 140 and 237), which employed a total of 13 public service announcements (PSAs), returned the same result. A fifth experimental study (N = 119) which utilized 2 PSAs provided further indication that PE→AE but not the reverse. At least under the conditions that characterize formative research, PE may be viewed as a causal antecedent of AE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-488
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


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